By Adrienne Provenzano
Last month, Veronica's Trail at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve was repaved. This site is in Bryant, Indiana, North of Indiana Highway 18 off County Road 250 West. Most Loblolly trails are unpaved, natural landscape, but this unique ADA compliant handicapped-accessible trail at the site enables access to the marsh for people with disabilities. But for the determination and actions by a few Hoosiers about 20 years ago, this special feature of the Loblolly may not exist today!
The year 2020 marks the 30th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, commonly referred to as the ADA,. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. This Federal civil rights legislation prevents discrimination based on disability. It's a law designed to make things better for people. The law provides the blueprint, but it requires action to get things done as Gene Stratton-Porter herself knew quite well.
Veronica's Trail named for Veronica Rambo, also one of the Geneva, Indiana torch bearers during the 2016 Bicentennial Relay. Some years ago, when visiting the Loblolly Marsh with her 4th grade class, Veronica was asked if she wanted to stay on the school bus or go into the marsh with her classmates. Ken Brunswick, founder of the Limberlost Swamp Remembered, explains in his book The Limberlost "Born Again": A Lifetime to Restore Gene Stratton-Porter's Lmberlost. "When I told the teachers that we were not equipped for wheelchairs, Veronica overheard me, pointed at her classmates, and insisted that, "Wherever they go I go!" Ken and several others, including Veronica's mother, carried her in her wheelchair to the site for the class nature activity and then carried her back to the school bus. Ken's always been a problem solver, so he was soon emailing the State Historic Site's main office to see what could be done to improve accessibility. Collaborating with Indiana DNR's ADA Administrator, Rick Edwards and others, including Larry Wayland and Al Schott, the trail was designed and constructed including paved and gravel segments and a wooden boardwalk. An extension was later added, and Veronica helped dedicate both the original and extension portions of the trail.
Have you ever visited Veronica's Trial? Journeyed past the waving grasses at the start of the path? Heard and seen the Red Winged Blackbirds perched on stately cattails? Listened tot he chorus of frogs in Spring? Marveled at fast flying dragonflies in the seasonal prairie pothole pond beside the boardwalk? Have you been serenaded by the whirr and buzz and chirps and tweets of pollinators and songbirds? Smelled the scent of Summertime? Admired the shaggy bark of the Shagbark Hickory trees near the summit of the hill? Perhaps you've sat on the hilltop bench and just breathed in and out, in and out for a time? Attended a naturalist led wildflower hike and learned why the Dandelion has its name? Wondered at a Monarch butterfly's effortless flight? Paused to read the new information signs and reflect on the history and beauty of this special place? Consider this your persona invitation! As Veronica Rambo wrote in a blog on this website posted June 19, 2016. "I hope when you go to the Loblolly Marsh that you will feel at peace and enjoy nature."
It takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace to travel round trip on this quarter mile trail you can take more time of course, and I usually do, each time discovering anew why Gene Stratton-Porter found the Limberlost "a spot wherein to revel." Let's give our thanks to Veronica, her mom, Ken, Rick, Larry, Al, and all the others who made this project a reality and keep it maintained so more can appreciate the wonders of Gene Stratton-Porter's Limberlost up-close.